My first time: nasal irrigation

On the third Sunday in April, I woke with a sore throat. By evening, I had laryngitis. Strange symptom chronology. And strange timing. Already spring! Sunny enough to go glove- and scarf-free. How incongruous to be sick.

After a week of coughing so hard that I self-diagnosed myself with pertussis, I recovered enough to resume teaching yoga, and I plunged back into my normal schedule. Soon my symptoms returned, with a secondary case of sinusitis. In addition to the respiratory troubles, I had a constant headache. My vocal cords were shot; simply talking was a strain.

Two and a half weeks in, I saw a doctor who prescribed a 10-day course of amoxicillin. She also prescribed a corticosteroid nasal spray to use after doing nasal irrigation. “Have you ever used a neti pot?” she asked.

A neti pot? Never had it crossed my mind to try it. Of course, I’d heard of it. Initially I regarded neti, nasal cleansing, as I did other shatkarma (yogic purification techniques): too far out for me. Running water (or a length of string) through my nasal passages? No thanks. From swimming, I know the sensation of “water up my nose.”

More recently, I learned that my friend Terry does neti regularly, and I saw a how-to video by another friend’s boyfriend. Knowing people who do neti in “real life” made it less esoteric. Still, I saw no reason to add an extra step to my daily bathroom routine.

NeilMed Sinus RinseNow, things were different. I was desperate. I immediately bought NeilMed Sinus Rinse, which the doc suggested as an alternate squeeze-bottle method, for positive pressure and ease of use. After the initial shock of the saline solution coursing through my nasal passages, I found nasal irrigation to be easy, effective, and strangely satisfying.

Like inserting contact lenses into my eyes (and dropping rubbing alcohol into my ears after a swim), pouring liquid into my nose turned out just fine! Why did I assume that I might aspirate liquid? It’s impossible with the head bent forward! (Note to the uninitiated: Proper hygiene and technique are critical for safe use. Using tap water can cause deadly parasitic infections. Please use at the very least some water filter jugs.)

Due to my illness, I missed the entire 2015 Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada conference, held in Vancouver this year. Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh, from Mumbai, was the featured teacher. Colleagues reported that his teaching was excellent. I was sorry to miss it, but being sick did have a few silver linings:

  • neti potFirst, I’m no longer wary of nasal irrigation. I always find it rewarding to try something new and slightly scary. Like going to Pune by myself last summer (or traveling to any unfamiliar place and somehow fending for myself). Once done, never will that situation be quite so daunting.
  • Second, I have fresh appreciation for normal health. We are always trying to get stronger, faster, stretchier, better in one way or another. What about simply breathing with ease? I take for granted being well, sleeping through the night without a coughing fit, talking without losing my voice, going from morning to night without crashing from exhaustion. Normal health, normal life, is a gift that I overlook unless it’s gone.
  • Third, as I recovered, life’s challenges seemed less and less formidable. If sickness makes life harder, health makes everything eminently doable. Extra work? Fine. Teach additional yoga classes? Sure. Face a big challenge? Let’s go. Bring it on. That’s how I felt when my health returned.

Images: sinusitis graphic; NeilMed Sinus Rinse; neti pot, FDA

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5 thoughts on “My first time: nasal irrigation

  1. Medically interesting, but how about the most obvious link to yoga: practicing breathing in through one nostril and out through the other?

  2. Love your candid comments Luci. Like you, I was in total shock when at a yoga workshop once when I was just out of my teens, we were all encouraged to try neti pot use! (It was not Iyengar yoga.) However, more recently I’ve adopted it as a good practice to ward off infections. Good for you for trying it – and for doing something that unnerves you. And btw, we missed you at the conference. Zubin’s teaching was illuminating.

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